OLDSMAR — When 75-year-old owner-trainer Thomas McCarthy and General Quarters set off a media frenzy by winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 14, one trackside fan said, "You can't help but root for the little guy."
That statement could apply today to Peter and Sharyn Wasiluk, who saddle locally stabled Dinner in Odem in the $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup (Race 8, 3:43 p.m.) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Listed at 15-1 on the early line, Dinner in Odem and jockey Felix Ortiz will try to pull off the upset in a 10-horse field that totals 50 career wins and more than $2.6 million in lifetime earnings. Among the favorites in the 11/16-mile turf event for 4-year-olds and upward are George Steinbrenner Kinsman Stable's Classic Campaign, a William Mott trainee who has finished fourth and second in the past two runnings; and 2008 Tampa Bay Derby runnerup Atoned, making his grass debut for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"We know it's a tough race," Sharyn said. "But I was told a long time ago, 'If you're not in them, you can't win them, and you're not going to earn any money standing at the barn.' ''
Dinner in Odem, a 5-year-old chestnut gelded son of Quaker Ridge, is the meal ticket in the couple's 33-horse stable. Trained by Peter, he has $196,057 in earnings with four wins from 33 starts. His last victory came six races ago at Delaware Park in Wilmington, where he rallied in the $55,000 Cape Henlopen Stakes on Sept. 3 at 15-1 odds. The Florida-bred has an in-the-money percentage of 61, with nine seconds and seven thirds.
"Pete and I joke about him paying our monthly mortgage," Sharyn said. "We call him the Rodney Dangerfield of the races, because he doesn't get any respect."
Dinner in Odem has finished at least fourth in his past 10 starts. He has come a long way since the Wasiluks purchased him for $7,000 at the 2006 Ocala Breeders' Sale for 2-year-olds in training. Dinner in Odem once was ordered off the track at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., where an outrider cited his tendencies to rear up and not run forwardly. A stint at an Ocala farm and work by former jockey Craig Faine turned Dinner in Odem around.
The Wasiluks, among TBD leaders with more than 100 starts, are looking for their first stakes win at Oldsmar since arriving in 2000. "We all know that favorites can get beat," Sharyn said. "If everything goes right, Dinner in Odem will give them a run for their money."
GREYHOUNDS: The $85,000 Sprint Classic begins qualifying tonight (Races 4, 6, 8 and 10) at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. Eight dogs with the most points after four rounds advance to the 550-yard final on March 7.